Dr Richard Yemm, founder of Pelamis – the Edinburgh-based wave power company that went into administration last month – has now spoken publicly about the potential of Scotland’s wave power sector.
He has highlighted the difficulties that that industry currently faces but remained positive on the prospects of the industry – calling it potentially a ‘billion-pound global opportunity’.
Yemm said: “It’s a challenging time in the whole industry. Those like us at the riskier end of the renewable portfolio are hit hardest, while the most mature technologies at the lowest costs will still proceed. That background pervades the whole industry, not just in the UK.
“Private-sector investors are finding it pretty hard at the moment to make a major contribution.
“Set against this we have a public sector which is very supportive because of the aggregation benefits it offers in a portfolio of other renewables, its offshore out-of-sight location and because of the huge industrial opportunity it offers with the potential for tens of thousands of jobs and billions in exports.
“It’s quite an interesting inversion of 10 years ago where there was quite a lot of private money, but very little public support. “The vast majority of politicians see marine energy as a big opportunity for Scotland.
“Due to the unfamiliar challenges, wave power technology has to be much more innovative. While this is, of course, a challenge for us it also means the resulting intellectual property created is much richer and better protected.
“And for Scotland’s economy it’s a massive export opportunity as a uniquely disruptive and well-protected technology. That message has been well understood in Scotland for some time, but I think less so in Westminster where they have had a more hands-off, leave-it-to-the-market attitude.
“Here we are sitting on a thousand-billion-pound global opportunity; so far, even just trying for 15 years, has created £65m-£70m net positive impact for the economy – just imagine what it would be like when we were actually manufacturing.
“The opportunity is big enough and the potential returns are enormous because the technology is very innovative and you can hold a market advantage when you are ready, so it’s a question of looking at the risks that are stopping the investment coming in, and Wave Energy Scotland <the newly-announced Scottish Government quango> has to hit them on the head and resolve them, to make the sector “conventional” and “investable” as soon as possible.”